Monday, 20 March 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 17 March 2017

Article 50, constitutional challenges between England and Scotland and school funding are dominating the news and the latter is of particular concern to us.  The National Funding Formula in its current format is going to see every school in England experience budget cuts before 2020 which will inevitably harm standards in schools up and down the country. Despite this, we continue trying to provide the best opportunities we can for your children and this week has been no exception.  I’d like to thank all of the parents and guardians who took the time to attend our forums on Wednesday and Friday last week.  They were challenging but ultimately productive sessions in which you raised some clear areas in which we could improve in our communication with you.  We have spent this week reflecting on the necessary actions to address the concerns that you voiced and as a result, we will be writing to you in due course with regards bullying, the use of Moodle and explaining the other specific actions that will be included in a summary of the sessions.  Thank you also for your expressions of support during this process – they are very much appreciated and we will continue our hard work to do them justice.  Fundraising was another topic of the forums and I will write to you separately on this matter in due course once the formula has been debated in the House of Commons next week – as it stands it looks like the formula may well be rejected, but we have seen things go the other way in the past…

Sporting fixtures aside in rugby, netball and equestrian where our sportsmen and women have excelled, we have had the opportunity to celebrate British Science Week during tutor time and in lessons this week. Our successful Duke of Edinburgh applicants collected their certificates for Bronze, Silver and Gold awards at the DoE ceremony at the Octagon in Yeovil this week, and our congratulations go once again to them for their endeavours including that of Mrs Wilkinson and her team.  Meanwhile, while continuing with our improvement plans in light of Ofsted, we have met with our Parents & Staff Association (if you are willing to help here please do get in touch) and been preparing for next week’s lectures which will both challenge and inspire – from the award winning film maker, Jo Ruxton who will be talking about ‘Plastic Oceans’ next Tuesday evening to our TEDEd team of Sixth Formers giving a series of wide-ranging lectures including topics such as existentialism, child mortality, literacy rates, sustainability and education on the Wednesday evening.  I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 10 March 2017

Our recent Academic Ofsted inspection unfortunately did not go well and the full report and response to it is on our website. We have an Academic Action Plan in place which we are working with colleagues and Governors on to address the shortcomings highlighted by the report. We are fully committed to rectifying those areas as well as continuing with our Boarding Action Plan. There are also many positives in the report and we should not lose sight of that - our students feel safe, are happy, well behaved, participate in a range of activities and enjoy coming into school. May I take this opportunity to thank you for the overwhelming support that you have given the school since receiving the report this week and for attending the Parents’ Forums - it speaks volumes about you and about our very caring and supportive school.

Despite the disappointing news, it’s business as usual here and I was impressed with the reaction of our students following the news of the report in assembly this week. They were considerate, articulate and passionate about their school and the way they conducted themselves for the Whole School Photo afterwards was indicative of the comments in the report.  We have learnt that four of our U6 students came in the top 30% of students in the U.K. who sat the prestigious and highly competitive International Chemistry Olympiad run by the Royal Society of Chemistry - an impressive achievement to say the least which we can all be proud of and there have been plenty of boarding activities too. With a number of sporting fixtures to exercise the mind and the body, auditions for next term’s Drama production of 'Bugsy Malone', rehearsals for this month’s Spring Concert in full flow, colleagues running the Bath Half Marathon this weekend in aid of the school’s partner charity, Macmillan Cancer Support and news of the proposed Sexey’s expedition to the Himalayas in July 2019 (more details to follow), the school carries on - a real strength of our community.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 3 March 2017

Despite the dreary and grey weather, the school has been awash in colour and bathed in a golden glow with everyone dressed in yellow to support ‘Big Yellow Friday’ in aid of the excellent work of the Children’s Liver Foundation, a charity close to school’s heart and my thanks to staff and students for all their help and in particular to Mr Dave Hill and his granddaughter Tilly (who is now a bonnie 3 year old), who took part in the fund-raising raffle at lunchtime today. It was lovely to see her and the community spirit displayed in full today by the whole school. It has certainly been a busy week!  Well done to the Y10s for keeping their cool as they sat their trial exams and I congratulate them on how well they have conducted themselves during this important week – it will prepare them for the future and I hope they have faced up to the challenge and that they have learnt a little more about themselves. The Sports department has played a number of netball, hockey and football fixtures this week (the 1st XI claimed a victory against Yeovil FC’s Academy side) as well as Rugby 7s competitions with the 1st VII last weekend losing in the plate Semi Final at Canford. Today the U13s and U14s are at the Perins School’s 7s tournament in Southampton and we wish them well in their endeavours.  Congratulations also to our Karate team who last weekend competed at the English Karate Federation Tournament in Birmingham and won three trophies for performance and fighting. The Y11 Oxford University trip was a success and we welcome back this evening our Y12 Geographers who have been carrying out their field work in Devon – it’s safe to say that the weather hasn’t been kind to them either. Where has this week gone?

I look forward to seeing you at the PSA Spring Dinner and Dance tomorrow evening where we will continue to celebrate our strong and caring community.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 24 February 2017

Half term came and went in a flash, but the foul weather seems to be still here! With Storm Doris ravaging most of the United Kingdom yesterday, our sportsmen and women were also creating a storm on the games fields against the likes of King’s Arthur’s, All Hallows’, Sandroyd, The Blue School and Bruton School for Girls. Well done too to our Year 7 footballers Ben George, Charlie Hawkins and Morris Moore who – we have just learnt - have made the final round of the SW District trials. Have we really only been back a week? We also saw plenty of inspiring performances by our musician at Acoustic Night this week which saw members of the String Group, Perla Walker, Hugo Peel, Lily Nuttall-Redman, Annabel Thrippleton, Cecily Minting et al take to the microphone and belt out such classics as the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ and Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. They played to a packed and appreciative audience and I am delighted that so many of our students (and staff) are engaged in music at the school – an essential part of the all-round, holistic education we endeavour to provide all our students. During Lower School assembly, we reminded our students to stay on TRaK – the Christian values of tolerance, respect and kindness which underpin everything we do here at Sexey’s and forms an integral part of our identity and community. They are clearly displayed in the school’s reception and in all that we do –  please reinforce these values at every opportunity; they are important.  And the Assistant Head (Pastoral), Mr Clackson gave a thought-provoking talk on the effects of bullying, which we take very seriously here at Sexey’s and I hope that our students will continue to be model citizens both in and out of school in all that they do and reflect our core values.

And as the Y10s get ready for their Trial exams next week, our Equestrian team competes in the NSEA Inter-Schools’ Show Jumping Competition at West Wilts on Saturday, our 1st VII rugby team compete at the prestigious Canford VIIs rugby tournament on Sunday, our Y11 geographers prepare to head off to Devon on their field work studies, some of our Y11s visiting Exeter College, Oxford, I try to find my black tie for next week’s PSA Spring Dinner & Dance (only a few tickets left so do get yours quickly!), and our charity fund raising event for the Children's Liver Disease Foundation ‘Big Yellow Friday’, I do wonder where February and the half term holiday went. We seem to be cooking up our own storm here.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 10 February 2017

Our Jacobean founder, Hugh Sexey would have been proud of this week’s School Production of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ (written between 1604 and 1606), which was performed with such confidence and aplomb by our students. The power and raw emotion from the actors set the tone for the stunning performance and the lead, played by Jasmin Dennis, has been compared to Glenda Jackson’s take on the role in the West End. High praise indeed. The cast and crew have again produced a play which has further raised the bar for future productions - expectations will be high and the challenge even greater. From front of house to backstage, from the music to make up - everybody has an important part to play and they do it so well; a self-less and caring community wanting the best for each other. Setting high standards and challenging our students to do things differently is what we strive to do and ‘King Lear’ was no exception. The upcoming review in ‘What’s on Somerset’ (which I encourage you to read) sums it up well and reflects the commitment and passion our students and staff have for our special school. Drama continues to excel at Sexey’s and with Trinity Guildhall examinations on offer to our Sexeians and our partnership with the Youth Cinema Foundation, I am pleased to see Drama both at school and in the community, going from strength to strength. The summer production will be our interpretation of the hit musical ‘Bugsy Malone’ which should be a real treat and I’ve been asked to sit in the front row…

Speaking of community, a group of young Sexeians went to Sexey's Hospital on Monday to meet with the current Master, Canon Paul Jenkins, who gave them a tour of Sexey's Hospital, met with the residents and then presented us with a new school flag to continue our strong and healthy relationship, something our founder would be very proud of. We thank Canon Jenkins for his tireless support of the school and wish him well as he retires next month. His legacy will last for many years to come, both in school and in our community.
And so to half term – while the students are enjoying an early start to a well-deserved break, colleagues from Sexey's and schools from all over Somerset have come together today as a learning community to share best practice and to learn from one another in what works best in the classroom - over 1000 teachers in over 40 schools have been working closely together for the benefit of the next generation. Community on an even bigger scale and a privilege to be a part of.

The RBS Six Nations Rugby continues this weekend, and I will be watching the game tomorrow with our local community - all sorts of communities coming together for a variety of reasons on a local, national and international level; it can only be a good thing. I wish you all a pleasant and peaceful half term.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 3 February 2017

Last Friday saw the PSA put on a fabulous show when we had a great turnout for the PSA Annual Quiz in the Main Hall. The whole event was expertly compered by our very own Mr Keith Partridge and a team called ‘The B Team’ successfully won back the title! The atmosphere was competitive and at times you could hear a pin drop as the cogs were whirring incessantly; the food was delicious and there was plenty of fine cheese too courtesy of Barber’s. I cannot thank the PSA enough for all their hard work and the time they give up to organise such excellent events (the Spring Ball is next month) which raises important funds for our school - benefiting our students hugely in the long term. The Quiz will no doubt be back again next year, so get those thinking caps on and start revising!

It’s now only a week before the end of what has been a truly busy and eventful half term. Next week, our thespians tread the boards in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ and I urge you all to come along and support this fine cast who have been rehearsing ‘come what may’ (that is in fact a quote from the bard himself). The U16 Girls' netball team triumphed in the Somerset Netball Competition at Westfield at the beginning of the week by winning all 5 of their matches convincingly and the U15 Girls’ Rugby training at Castle Cary RFC was a truly muddy affair and quite timely with the 6 Nations Rugby kicking off this weekend. The U13 Boys' Hockey at Holyrood also proved popular this week and we hope that boys' hockey gains momentum here at the school. 

During Lower School assembly we were treated to a scintillating performance of the Stranglers’ ‘Hanging Around’, by the 'Rock Scholars' who had everyone in awe. They will be next performing at Acoustic Night later this term, so do please come along and support them as well as all of our musicians. And finally we had the school Chaplain, Mr Richard Kelley, speak to the students about the importance of listening to one another and respecting each other’s opinion  – something we, politicians and world leaders can learn to do from time to time.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 27 January 2017

The January Blues should hopefully be over soon, but there has been a couple of nasty bugs doing the rounds. As a result staff absence has been particularly high at the moment, with many students also being unwell. The school is doing its utmost to ensure a subject-specialised teacher is covering teacher absence but, as some of the notifications from staff are being received by the school last-minute, this isn’t always possible. In these instances, lessons are covered by other members of teaching staff, and even when staff are unwell, they try hard to ensure work is set for their classes and that the lesson time is used productively (I have enjoyed teaching ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Y9 and ‘Percentages’ to Y8 this week). We ask that you please bear with us whilst we are managing this challenge and also that you do not send your child to school if they are unwell. If your child is a boarder and they fall ill, it would be very much appreciated if you could arrange to collect them as soon as possible because the strain on the Health Centre is apparent. Sister Rosemary has had a baptism of fire this week and I thank her and other colleagues who have stepped in to support and I hope that over the exeat, staff and students will have the time to recuperate and will be back in school on Monday fighting fit.

My congratulations to the Y11 students who sat their Core Exams this week and conducted themselves with great maturity – I hope they found them challenging and rewarding and will learn from any mistakes they may have made. The results of these exams will be out in due course. It was refreshing too this week to hear the newly elected MYP for South Somerset, our very own Lower Sixth Former Katie Leeming speak at assembly about her hopes and aspirations as she embarks on her political career where she will debate issues in Parliament such as education, health, policing and Brexit, amongst others in this uncertain political world. I just hope that the next generation of leaders learn from the past, hold on to our cherished values and pave the way for a brighter future. Choose Education - which will be put to the test at tonight's PSA Quiz.